Edinburgh City entered this week off the back of three disappointing results as the manager focused on the first of two home games as an opportunity to get back to winning ways and maintain the pressure on Cove Rangers at the top. Albion have had another tough season, languishing 9th in the table. This poor form continued on Saturday and they weren’t helped by an early sending off which left them with an uphill battle all day and in the end, City proved far too strong for their opposition.

City’s first-half onslaught

Conditions in Edinburgh were much improved as, hopefully, the UK begins to enter Spring. Struggling slightly with the swirling wind, the game took some time to burst into life with a headed chance from Liam Henderson that flew over the bar the only opportunity for either side in the early stages. Albion’s day soon became an uphill battle, however. Edinburgh began to move through the gears getting the ball on the deck and playing some lovely passing football. The ball was whipped in from the right wing which caused havoc and miscommunication in the visitors’ penalty area. Attempting to clear it behind for a corner, the ball ricocheted off the arm of Nicholas McAllister who was immediately shown a red card as the referee pointed to the spot. Blair Henderson stepped up and coolly slotted the spot-kick into the bottom right corner. Double jeopardy for Albion who knew there was a long day ahead of them.

(Blair Henderson met the ball as it broke to him in the box, but his effort was handled on the line by Centre half Nicholas McAllister who was immediately sent for an early bath as Albion faced double jeopardy with a penalty awarded to City also.)

With the extra man, Edinburgh battered the Albion defence for the remainder of the half and Henderson will be disappointed he didn’t go home with the match ball. Close to half-time the centre forward was played in behind the Albion Rovers defence which was an outlet throughout the half. However, the No.9 saw his effort tipped over the bar by the Rovers goalkeeper Goodfellow. From the resulting set piece, Henderson had a free header but could only send it over the framework of the Albion goal.

Not only was Blair getting on the end of chances he was returning the favour. Minutes after his penalty opened the scoring, Henderson with his back to goal flicked the ball over his marker and through for Marc Laird to run onto. Unfortunately, the central midfielder couldn’t control his effort which went sailing over the bar. Shortly after, Laird broke free of his mark at a corner but he too couldn’t control his header and test Goodfellow.

Despite leading at the break, there was anxiety surrounding the fact that City have struggled to score of late. Playing against 10 men can be tough however, as they are camped out in their own half. Manager McDonaugh was unfazed by this saying after the game that he doesn’t get stressed about these sorts of things and knew the goals would come.

Half-time: Edinburgh City 1 – 0 Albion Rovers

Savoury’s Sorcery

The second half started a little sluggish much like the first. However, one of City’s new fans favourites Grant Savoury had sensed an opportunity prior to the break. The young Celtic loanee gave his opposite man Ross Clarke a torrid time, turning him inside and out and always looking to run beyond the left back. It was the 19 year-old who had the first real opportunity of the half as he cut into the box off the right and saw his curling effort tipped behind for a corner.

The impetus was very much run by the young winger as he took it upon himself to take the game to Albion. Winning a free kick on the hour mark just outside the box led to City’s second goal and another assist for Captain Thomson’s collection. A simple curled ball into the box was ever-so-slightly glanced toward goal by an unmarked Danny Handling, leaving Goodfellow rooted to the spot. A sigh of relief around Ainslie Park was let out, fans knowing the game had been put to bed and 3 points secured.

City continued to be more clinical in the second half as they wanted to assure of the win and avoid any late embarrassment. Minutes after the second, the ball was worked brilliantly to Danny Handling at the edge of the box who capped off his performance with a lovely slide rule pass into Alex Harris which the midfielder obligingly finished across the keeper.

As the game was dead and buried, Savoury went in search of his first goal for the club. Continuing to dazzle his marker, Savoury also took up position in the box during several attacks. First, on the end of an Alex Harris cut-back which the winger sent over the bar and secondly attacking a cross which he also agonisingly saw fly over Goodfellow’s goal. In the end, the young No.20 will be disappointed not to get the goal which his contribution merited. However, City did see the game out calmly, sweeping up the minimal threat that the ten-men of Albion were able to pose and will be happy to get back to winning ways.

Full time: Edinburgh City 3 – 0 Albion Rovers

Man of the Match: Despite playing against ten men for the majority of the game, this can cause issues to teams who may struggle to break down a wall of defenders. It would be difficult, therefore, to give man of the match to one player as I can think of a few who ensured City would take all 3 points on Saturday. Blair Henderson was menacing in the first half and Grant Savoury ran the opposition ragged in the second but due to pure stats it would have to be given to Danny Handling who got on the score sheet again this season and provided an assist for the third.

‘That’s why he has his hair like that.’

Discussing the game in the dugout, McDonaugh was asked the obvious question of playing against ten men and how he thought the players dealt with the situation. ‘You play against ten men and it can be really difficult. We’ve seen it here before when teams come and sit in against us with ten men behind the ball. It can be really hard to break down.’

The manager was full of praise though for the way his men played and the manner in which they produced their performance. ‘I thought before the sending off and after it we were really good at times today. We were on the front foot, we were creative, good movement, good football, didnt muck about with the ball and played forward with effect. We missed six good chances so it could’ve been even more.I felt we moved the ball well enough and not just for the sake of it. Even before the sending off we had a real attacking impetus.’

Discussing the second goal, McDonaugh believed in the power of Handling’s locks. ‘I think Danny’s touched it, he’s claiming it, that’s why he has his hair like that so he can get the flicks that put the ball in the net like that.’ Not only did the no.10’s goal settle the game but it settled some nerves in the ground – not that the gaffer lets this sort of thing worry him. ‘I dont get nervous like that but I said to blair at half time he could’ve had a hat trick, baird could have scored too.’

To finish, the manager was extremely positive about a comfortable victory: ‘Overall, I was pleased with them today though, we were looking for a reaction, we stumbled a wee bit the last few weeks and probably suffered the disappointment of cove getting away from us a bit.’

Next Match: Saturday 14th March – Stenhousemuir (H) – 15:00 KO

Written by Miles Lockhart